Benson: A Spin-Off of “Soap” That Stood On Its Own

Benson is an American television sitcom that aired on ABC from 1979 to 1986. The show follows the life of Benson DuBois (Robert Guillaume), who starts as the head of household affairs for Governor Eugene Gatling (James Noble) before becoming the lieutenant governor of the state.

The show was a spin-off of the popular ABC sitcom Soap and was created by Susan Harris. Benson was one of the few shows on television at the time to feature a black lead character in a position of power. 

Benson received critical acclaim during its run and was nominated for several awards, including the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series for Robert Guillaume. The show also successfully ran in syndication after its original run ended.


Benson is known for its witty humor, political satire, and strong character development. It tackles issues such as race, class, and gender with a sharp wit and a lot of heart. The show was a spin-off of the popular sitcom Soap, created by Susan Harris.

Benson was a groundbreaking show for its time, featuring an African American lead character in a position of power and influence. It was also one of the first shows to feature a character with a disability in a prominent role, as Benson’s limp results from a childhood bout with polio.

History of Benson

Creation and Development

Benson was created by Susan Harris, who also created the hit series, The Golden Girls. The character of Benson DuBois was first introduced on the television show, Soap, and was so popular that he was given his own spin-off series.

The show was set in the fictional Governor’s Mansion in the state of Georgia and followed the life of Benson, the head of household affairs for the Governor. 

Benson Cast and Crew

The show starred Robert Guillaume as Benson DuBois, who won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series for his role. Other notable cast members included James Noble as Governor Eugene Gatling, Inga Swenson as Gatling’s wife, Gretchen Kraus, and Missy Gold as Katie Gatling, the Governor’s daughter.

Another star in the Benson lineup was Rene Auberjois, who played Clayton Endicott III, a role for which he was an Emmy nominee.

rene auberjois in the classic tv show seinfeld

The show was produced by Witt/Thomas/Harris Productions and distributed by 20th Century Fox Television. The series was executive produced by Susan Harris, Tony Thomas, and Paul Junger Witt.

Insider Fact: Jerry Seinfeld played Frankie, a messenger who was always trying to win a job in the Governor’s mansion by writing jokes for the Governor’s speeches. The only problem was Frankie’s jokes were not funny. Seinfeld appeared in three episodes before being canned unceremoniously.

jerry seinfeld as frankie in the tv show benson

Benson’s Impact


Robert Guillaume’s performance as Benson had a lasting impact on American culture. Guillaume was a trailblazer for black actors, paving the way for future performers. His portrayal of Benson was complex and nuanced, and he brought humanity to the character.


Benson’s influence can be seen in many aspects of American culture, from television shows to politics. The show’s focus on diversity and representation helped shift the cultural conversation around these issues. Its use of humor to tackle serious topics has become a hallmark of many successful television shows.

robert guilliame and james noble in a scene from benson

Politically, Benson also had an impact. The show’s creator, Susan Harris, went on to create the groundbreaking political satire, The West Wing, which was heavily influenced by Benson’s focus on politics and social issues.

Wrapping Up: Benson, We Miss You!

The television show “Benson” was a groundbreaking sitcom tackling important social issues while providing plenty of laughs. The show’s unique blend of humor and social commentary made it a hit with audiences and critics alike.

Throughout its seven seasons, “Benson” dealt with various issues, from racism and sexism to poverty and homelessness. The show’s writers and cast were never afraid to take on controversial topics, and their willingness to tackle tough issues helped to make the show a cultural touchstone.

Despite its serious themes, “Benson” was also fun to watch. The show’s witty writing and talented cast made it one of the most beloved sitcoms of its era. Fans of the show continue to enjoy it today, thanks to its timeless humor and enduring relevance.